OCDE announces the county’s top classified school employees for 2021

Title with star Orange County Classified School Employees of the YearOCDE has named its top classified school employees of the year — and this year there are even more to celebrate.

The California Department of Education has reorganized its categories for 2021, increasing the total number from six to nine to be more in alignment with the new Recognizing Inspiring School Employees — or RISE — awards program at the national level.

Orange County’s winners were selected from a pool of 61 district-level honorees based on their work performance, leadership, commitment and involvement with their schools and communities. Without further ado, here they are:

Clerical and Administrative Services

Allison Goettman
School Clerk
La Habra City School District

Custodian and Maintenance Services

Miguel Laris
Senior Custodian
Westminster School District

Food and Nutrition Services

Rosemary Tamayo
Food Services Lead
Garden Grove Unified School District

Health and Student Services

Cassandra Palacios
Licensed Vocational Nurse
Los Alamitos Unified School District


Jessica Lee
Huntington Beach City School District

Security Services

Patricia Mendez
Activity Monitor
Santa Ana Unified School District

Skilled Trades

Adrian Prieto
HVAC Technician
Anaheim Union High School District

Technical Services

Chris Martinez
Systems Network Technician
Magnolia School District

Transportation Services

Matthew Sobelman
Bus Driver
Huntington Beach Union High School District


The Classified School Employees of the Year program was first established back in 2008 by the state Department of Education to spotlight some of the unsung heroes of the education community, including custodians, instructional assistants, office clerks, technicians, bus drivers and other non-certificated staff members.

In Orange County, which serves about 475,000 public school students, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union annually partners with OCDE to recognize those who help ensure campuses are safe, supportive and engaging learning environments.

“Our classified staff members perform essential roles that contribute mightily to the health, safety and academic success of students,” Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares said. “This past year, the global pandemic presented extraordinary challenges for public education, yet it has also highlighted the ingenuity, creativity and dedication of exemplary school employees who more than met the moment to support schools, students and families throughout our county.”

The nine Orange County Classified School Employees of the Year are set to be formally celebrated during Classified School Employee Week, which begins May 16 — and we’ll have more then too.

Each is now eligible to compete for state honors, and if they advance, they could also be nominated as national RISE recipients.